Animal shelters and rescue groups across the state are asking for the public’s help in remedying a serious glut of the petite pooches.
“All the shelters in California are seeing an upswing in Chihuahua impounds,” said Deb Campbell, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco animal care and control department. “It’s been a slow and steady climb. … We call it the Paris Hilton syndrome.”
At the Valley Oak SPCA, which services Visalia and Tulare, more than 40 percent of the dogs are said to be Chihuahuas or Chihuahua mixes. On any given day the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has 20 to 50 such animals, officials said.
Animal lovers blame Hollywood for California’s surplus. The pint-sized pups with outsized personalities grew more popular after Reese Witherspoon’s character in the 2001 movie “Legally Blonde” accessorized her Pepto- Bismol-tinted wardrobe with a Chihuahua named Bruiser.
“The big factor is that they are small and people like to put them in their purses,” said Valley Oak SPCA Interim Director Kelly Austin. “We saw an influx when ‘Legally Blonde’ came out.”
Paris Hilton’s Tinkerbell was a regular on the “The Simple Life” reality TV series. Then came the 2008 Disney comedy “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.”
And who can forget Gidget — the star of a popular series of Taco Bell commercials — who last summer succumbed to a stroke at age 15.
Such media saturation fueled demand for the dogs, and breeders overdid it, San Francisco’s Campbell said.